Expert shares “fears” for professional sport in 2021

Events Cancelled

A sports law expert has said that he expects this year’s sporting calendar to “follow a similar pattern to 2020” as sporting events prepare themselves for the year ahead.

The impact of the global pandemic hit golf hard in 2020, with every professional tour experiencing a truncated season, if not an entirely cancelled one, as was the case for the StaySure Tour.

Golf’s majors were not immune either as the three stateside events took place with no spectators, while the Open Championship was cancelled - the first year since 1945 that the tournament wasn’t played.

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With many hopeful that 2021 will bring about a return some form of normality, Stephen Taylor-Heath, head of sports law at JMW Solicitors, believes it could be more of the same for this year.

“I personally fear that this summer’s sporting calendar will follow a similar pattern to last year unless the broadcasters and organisers can make an event more feasible behind closed doors than it was last year,” he said.

The Masters recently unveiled plans to allow a limited number of patrons to attend the April tournament, but Taylor-Heath admits events could be forced into cancellation once more if there’s no financial viability to them.

“The headache for event organisers at the moment is whether to stick, twist or fold,” he added. “If the event simply cannot proceed on financial grounds without spectators, they have to fold and cancel.

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“If a significant part of the revenue is generated by broadcasting rights they may stick and confirm the event will proceed. If the event can proceed but it being able to do so relies on the planets aligning, they may confirm the event but with various caveats and contingency plans.”

If more events do announce cancellations in the year ahead, Taylor-Heath, who has over 20 years in the sports law industry, believes there could be massive long-term ramifications.

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“The worst of both worlds is that spectators not being admitted means the events cannot take place and so the content is not there and the broadcast subscriptions go down," added Taylor-Heath.

"If the public found something else to focus their passion on and decided perhaps their sporting obsession was somewhat myopic the repercussions for the top-end of professional sport could be significant and long ranging.”

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